There was quite a bit of conversation on Twitter today about the theoretical implications if Alexander Radulov were to return to the NHL soon, and one point that I made to folks was that if A-Rad were to come back after Friday, October 7th, he would have to clear waivers in order to play for the Nashville Predators, which presents just one more obstacle to the notion of this actually happening, regardless of his squabbles with his KHL team, Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
Here's what Article 13.23 of the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement has to say on the matter:
In the event a professional or former professional Player plays in a league outside North America after the start of the NHL Regular Season, other than on Loan from his Club, he may thereafter play in the NHL during that Playing Season (including Playoffs) only if he has first either cleared or been obtained via Waivers. For the balance of the Playing Season, any such Player who has been obtained via Waivers may be Traded or Loaned only after again clearing Waivers or through Waiver claim.
It seems crystal-clear to me that this language would apply to Alexander Radulov if he were to try and come back to the NHL after continuing to play in the KHL after Friday, the start of the NHL Regular Season. It contains no qualification for guys under contract vs. free agents, nor are there any such references in the surrounding text. It also makes no reference to whether players are on the roster for their respective NHL team or not. He is most certainly not "on loan" from the Predators to the KHL, therefore he could only come back and play for Nashville (or any team in the NHL, for that matter) "if he has first either cleared or been obtained via Waivers."
If anyone can find language to the contrary, I'm all ears. Feel free to download a copy of the CBA from the NHLPA's site, but watch out - this document is sleep-inducing, so please do not attempt to operate heavy machinery while reading.